Here, in the room that has become the boundary of my world, I count time by the light. The clock has long gone; what remains now is colour, the slow movement, the flickers of lightning in a storm. Morning light is milky blue, colour for painting dissolving in water, sinking slowly like silk. I used to paint, when I was younger. I remember the splatters on reddened skin, the surprise of colour in a subdued land: red on grey stones. Then come the long hours of the day, the strip of sun growing along the floor, towards me. Nothing grows towards me but the light; it touches my bare feet when midday arrives. Sometimes all I do is wait for this touch. Like all things do, it shrinks again, slides back towards the outside world. As the afternoon passes, it is also as if the shadows deepened, opaque like misplaced slivers of night. That is: a reminder; a respite.
My room looks out onto the land stretching inwards, towards the slopes of the hills. I can only imagine the sea; the violent fall of the waves, rearing up only to break against the shoreline. Sometimes I imagine I can hear its dull rhythm, but perhaps it is only the beat of my own pulse. When the illuminated floor changes from washed-out yellow to deeper colours I remember the sun setting into the ocean: pulled downwards, cracked open and bleeding shades of red into the water; stripes of dusty pink, orange, and dove blue hovering above the glittering surface; the rocks with their harsh edges suddenly thrown unknowingly into a form of beauty. This light does not reach these corners; all they get is an echo of its colours. Nor do I see the sky after, the dark blue cupola stretched from one corner of the land to the other, indigo velvet studded with diamonds. Every night, I stretch my head as high as possible, past the bars in front of my window, only to catch a glimpse of that vastness. I can feel the spike of cold black metal lay its palm onto my cheek; my second touch of the day. As I press into it, deeper, another star enters my field of vision. This is what I get now: a moment of escape, sharpened by pain.
I’ve been showing petrichorals around my small corner of South Wales these last two days and I don’t know if it’s seeing it through a stranger’s eyes or maybe just because London is over and this is home again (for now, briefly), but everything seems different, softer, less terrifying. Today we drove to the coast, still wild and craggy and covered with gorse flowers that you crush coconut-smelling in your hands, just as it was a hundred, three hundred years ago, up past Sgêr house that’s yellow too like another eruption of hardy shrub on the treeless land (have you noticed how all the flowers by the sea are yellow; and their leaves so dark green; and how they stand up against the wind and seem to grow from nothing?) And in the rocks below the crannies where Elizabeth, ghost who haunts that yellow building that stands where no building reasonably should - there, where she would store her most precious things (and in those same rocks smugglers would have hidden treasures; and on that sand ships were wrecked and jewels sunk beneath stones). It smells of factories, that coast, that air - it has for eight, ten generations, since Elizabeth’s time. And now in the night you can see the plumes of smoke lit up bright like a sleeping dragon’s nest and you can smell the same air: salt and steel.
The train conductor called me bach yesterday, speeding across the Severn Bridge. It’s Welsh for small, a bit like love, and makes me think of wooden chairs and hearths. There’s a warmth in Welsh words; the warmth of words being raised from a cooling grate, the warmth of disturbed sparks and old fire stories. A few hours before I’d been watching Pride in an almost-empty cinema in England, gone in without realising where it was set, and when they drove into the street my heart moved because those are my streets (grey on grey on grey against a mound of black; a country more defined by what’s inside its ground than on top of it). And when they sang Bread and Roses in the workingmen’s hall I couldn’t stop crying and Katie asked if they still do that in Wales, all sing like that and I said “Not any more, not since the mines closed.” I don’t mean to sound so sentimental, so reverent and nationalistic about a time that I didn’t see but I’ve seen the rubble. I’d never seen what came before: the dying breaths before it got torn down and left the land with open wounds and the people, too.
To be honest, it’s rather hard being here - i don’t just want to visit, i want to live here . Trying to engage in activities i would do if i were (coffees -plural, obviously- and reading, evening strolls) but i’m feeling nostalgic already.
Also: feeling too aware of my own body, wishing i could just not care, but unable to get rid of this underlying current of anxiety. My wish to enjoy myself always makes me take it too far which makes me feel even worse.
Apart from that my trip has been nice so far. Perhaps all this can serve as a reminder that there’s still work to be done here.
I’m in London!!! 🇬🇧 drinking wine at my cousin’s place.